My teaching approach
I have been teaching English language for twelve years now to various age groups and levels. This includes employing various syllabi and techniques. Alhough, I had never studied to become a teacher, I used these different methodologies based on my own consideration and experience. It was only in the Oxbridge TEFL course that I learned to consciously focus on developing my skills as a teacher. The intensive study included learning the fundamental terminology, grammar review, language analysis, lesson planning, teaching skills and teaching proficiency. However, there is not the only “right“ approach to put these skills in practice. Each teacher has his unique style that carries his personal touch. Apart from the learned skills, the teaching styles differ based on the personality of the teacher.
In my teaching approach I do not rely on one method only as it might get boring for the students by the time to perform activities based on the same techniques. I am an advocate of the use of any available forms of instruction if they fulfil the goal. Changing the activities and trying on different approaches/methods/techniques to teaching L2 might keep the students motivated to experience various learning situations. I think it is only by trying more methods/techniques that one can develop a model lesson structure that works for a particular student or a group.
Knowledge about our students will enable us to refine lesson plans, class discussions, comments, topics, and activities so that they become more effective learning experiences. References to student´s interests, backgrounds, knowledge, and even anxieties can make the class seem more personal and reflecting to student´s needs.
Motivation of the student can be internal, which means the student is motivated to learn out of his own initiative. External motivation may not always be the best as this comes from external factors that make the student learn the language, e.g. parents demanding a teenage student to learn. The best situation is when the student is motivated from within, e.g. likes the language and wants to learn it. Otherwise it is the responsibility of the teacher to motivate his students in the class to make progress. To do that, the teacher should be positive, praise the students´ advancement however big or small it is and come up with engaging content to learn. Innovative techniques and the use of the modern devices are already incorporated in schools which stay relevant and up-to-date in terms of technology and premises.
Affective factors play an important role in systematic variation and can be linked with the use of interlanguage. For example, learners in a stressful situation (such as speaking in front of public or a formal exam) may produce fewer correct target language forms than they would in a comfortable setting. This clearly interacts with social factors, and attitudes toward the interlocutor and topic also play important roles. Affective factors are emotional factors that influence how easily the student is able to pick up a language. Some of them, like intelligence or age we can´t influence but the other affective factors (attitudes, motivation, anxiety), can be dealt with to some degree if the teacher tries to make an effort and works with the student.
Language skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing are so called macro skills. Developing each of them used to be included in most widely used methodologies. Some methods nowadays don´t channel all four macro skills to be taught. For example direct method does not incorporate practising writing skills but draws mainly on reading, speaking, sometimes listening to recordings or watching videos. First language acquisition does not include writing as well, it is at later stages that students learn to write at school. I think, that when the students learn L2 in a classroom, writing skills should be a part of a syllabus, whereas writing skills do not necessarily have to be included in conversational courses. Therefore, we can conclude, that the choice of the skills that will be practised depends on the student´s needs. For example, in an S1 course writing should be included, because it teaches from the early stages the correct spelling of the vocabulary which is in English different from the way we pronounce the words, apart from other languages such as Spanish or German.
Language areas: grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling are so callled micro skills, which are the subclasses of the four macro skills. I believe that all language areas should be practised by picking up the graded language to be taught correctly.
In communicative approach (and not only in that), grammar is not explained as a form but in its natural context in the text, heard communication or otherwise. We focus on the function of the grammar, not its form, in the beginning when we introduce the piece of language. If we do not concentrate on writing or studying the form, we should closely observe and correct the flaws in using the right grammar in the speech acts when we use that grammar in context.
Vocabulary teaching approach varies with different grous of students. Beginners should learn many cognats as this makes it easy to use the language at the erly stages. The techniques which are suitable include drawings, pictures, miming, examples. More advanced students develop their vocabulary using techniques like brainstorming, synonyms, definitions, logical conclusion and othes.
The structure of the course syllabus that describes what contents are to be taught in a course and in what order is to be selected according to the student´s needs. Teaching with textbooks usually supports grammatical syllabus. Oxbridge system that draws on the direct method applies lexical and functional syllabi which practise also the micro skill – pronunciation.
Here is an example of how the lesson in an S1 course would be structured: Creating a Syllabus for S1
1-2 min) Greeting the student, asking about his/her weekend or a day at work. Asking how they are.
1-2 min) Asking a few randomly selected questions to activate the mind of the student and prepare him for the lesson. E.g. Is it Monday? Are you French? etc.
3-4 min) Revision (if applicable) of the vocabulary from the previous lesson by asking open questions using the recycled vocabulary.
10 min) Introduction of new vocabulary, for example food
Introduce vocabulary that can later be used to introduce the verb "to eat". Use materials (visuals, multimedia, realia, video) that you have prepared, and can be actively used.
Repetition is a teacher controlled practice. At this stage the teacher corrects the student and praises the students when they answer correctly.
15 min) Introduce the verb “to eat“.
Introducing the verb “to eat“ in first and the second person. Using the vocabulary from the previous exercise as an object. E.g. “I eat pasta,“ “You eat cheese.“
10 min) vocabulary
Introduce the numbers 1 until 10
10 min) use the new vocabulary plus the numbers to create sentences.
5 min) Wrap up activity would practise production skill where the student will create senteces. In this activity the teacher asks the students questions which contain the target language. In the one-to-one class the two interlocutors are the teacher and the student, whereas if there are more students in the class, the interchange is between the students.
Activities that have proven to be successful come from different methodologies. We mainly draw on communicative method and its sub-branch Task Based Learning activities where students complete meaningful tasks preparing them for real life, like arranging sth. over the phone, complaining about the bad service or booking tickets. These tasks include role plays and put language use in context. Important is to select engaging context to avoid repetition of topics. Correction of mistakes is not immediate as we focus on completing the tasks rather than grammatical correctness.
Materials I would choose for this lesson would include pictures of different food some of which students already may have known, like cheese, chocolate, apple, pasta, etc. Generally in my approach I make use of games, songs, stories, videos, magazines, websites, board games, realias, drawings, whatever else comes handy.
Practice of Target language would be caried out as a free practice in the form of open questions which contain the vocabulary from TL. By answering the questions right the students demonstrate the knowledge of the TL.
Interaction conditions are created by the teacher who should contribute to providing a welcoming environment. This is not as challenging as it may sound. It is about realizing the ways that some students may be less confident or advanced than others and how this affects them. Treating students with consideration and interest, and encouraging them to treat each other likewise is a good way to progress in learning.
The teacher´s role in an adult classroom should be that of researcher of learners´s needs, communication facilitator as well as role model. The same applies to teaching children or teenagers with adding prominence to other roles such as psychologist, friend, but also an authority to his/her students so the teacher can deal with difficult situations that might occur in the class that do not occur in adult classes.
Student´s roles have evolved over the years from a passive recipient who responds to teachers questions when he is asked to an active student who learns through self-management skills. The student knows what he/she needs to learn and the teacher is interested in those needs to fulfill them. This also serves as motivation.
The vehicular language of the classroom would be English as a second language because the students need to learn to think in this language. By using solely English in the classroom we press the students for understanding by having the language repeated. Moreover, relying on just English we enable the students whose mother tongue is different from the official language of the country we are teaching in participate in a class.
Interlanguage is a language that the student creates during the process of learning the target language L2 from the mother language L1. This is beause of different language systems of L1 and L2. To correct the mistakes that appear at this stage the teacher must consider the right approach to keep the student motivated.
Evaluation such as positively written report or assessment of the student´s skills is a good way but will not suffice in all situations. Therefore, with classes that prepare for language exams it is necessary to do some testing.
Grading our language, especially when our method of teaching is predominantly based on communication, is a natural method we try to use for different leves of students. I believe, that in more general way, we might use both finely tuned input and roughly tuned input. The first being graded language, the second being one level higher than the actual level of the student.
My approach to teaching English language would change considering differences between teaching beginners and advanced students. Age is also an important factor to consider while preparing the syllabus and how it is going to be taught.